Weaponizing Your Website from YouTube
Speaker: Jennifer Hill There is a war a raging in our cyberworld and it is time for you to join the resistance. Cambridge Analytica stealing Facebook user’s data, white supremacists getting verified on Twitter, and child pornography on Instagram. The list of atrocities continues. We as technologists know the inner workings of social media platforms more than anybody. We see the hypocrisy and the evil of social media platforms in a way that most people do not. It is time for us to awaken from our passivity and take a stance against our corporate social media overlords. Weaponizing Your Website will give you ideas, or ammunition, to fight against our broken social media world. This bootcamp will include learning how to utilize the strongest weapons in your stockpile; your voice and your website. With me, Jenn Hill, a University of Mary Washington student, at the helm I will prepare you for taking up arms and battling the corporate social media tyrants.

Thanks to Kicks for linking to this.

The kid from "David After Dentist" is headed to college (Vox)
Here’s how going viral changed his life.

The type of internet fame that David experienced — mostly supportive, humorous, and even sweet — is emblematic of the 2000s. This was the cusp of the social media era, when people regularly posted their earnest feelings on Facebook and being in someone’s Top Eight on MySpace still connoted close friendship. But the online conversation has soured since then, and blowback can be crueler. Now, in the age of doxing, trolls, and brutal Twitter takedowns, is it possible to escape viral fame so unscathed?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the #indieweb approach, and thinking about how it could be applied to my site, and more importantly, I’m trying to figure out how I would want it to work for me:

  • If I post a short post type (<280 chars), it automatically gets syndicated fully to Twitter, including any attached media. Micro.blog would also be good.

  • Any interactions with that Tweet are reflected on the original post.

  • “Pure” indieweb philosphy would have me reply to any/all tweets from my site, but I’m not sure I want to go there.

  • Other social media “silos” should similarly interact with the site in a push or pull manner as appropriate – e.g. if I post to Instagram, the photo should be converted into a new post on my site, with the file rehosted.

  • The site should essentially be the “hub” for everything I post online, including a “profile” of sorts.

  • Microformats and POSH should be a given.

  • Longer posts should still be first-class citizens.

  • Post titles are completely optional and the tools involved should handle this gracefully.

  • Different post types should have distinct/appropriate visual styling.

Oh, and all of this should work as easily and seamlessly as possible on iOS (my primary platform)

Right now, I’m trying to get this setup using WordPress with several of the recommended IndieWeb plugins and recommendations, but so far I’m struggling to get things “just so.” The site definitely feels very rough around the edges. I’m not tied to this current approach though. Ideally I’d like to stick with tools/languages I know, and not need to spend weeks configuring things.

In an ideal world, I could have integrated the IndieWeb tooling/approach into my existing blog, which is powered by Jekyll – but this currently fails my “easy to do on iOS” test, which is the main reason I’ve not blogged there in around six months.

The algorithm-driven Instagram feed was rolled out a while ago, but it’s only recently I’ve noticed much of a difference. Unfortunately the difference, particularly in the last couple of weeks, has been increasingly negative. So much so I really wish there was a way to opt-out!

Basically it comes down to I’m not seeing what I want to see at the time I want to see it, often leading me to just close the app after scrolling down a little bit. So as a way of “increasing engagement” it utterly fails.

A trivial example: I follow WWE on Instagram. Every Monday and Tuesday night, they post 6-12 photos from the goings on at Monday Night Raw, and Smackdown Live. Every Tuesday/Wednesday morning, I would like to open up Instagram and be able to scroll through to see what happened. This used to work, but some time in the last few weeks it changed so these photos show up randomly in my feed over the next 2-4 days – after I’ve already got the information from other sources, and definitely past the point I want the photos to show up at the top. The photos never show in chronological order, and never show as a batch of more than 1-2 at a time.

For the accounts I follow who aren’t “brands” (i.e. friends, shared interest accounts, etc), often it’s the people I like or comment on the least who appear near the top, and often the most trite, uninteresting photos they’ve posted. Why show me the video of a friend’s baby’s adorable first laugh, another friend’s stunning macro photography, or a popular post from an interest account, when 4 out of 6 of the photos at the top of my feed are meme nonsense? With the other 2 being drinks/food from someone’s night out 3 days ago?

Is it just me? I don’t think so, but maybe it’s just particularly bad on my feed? What’re your experiences with Instagram lately?

No doubt by now you’ve seen the video above – “I Forgot My Phone” – a fairly sobering take on how social interactions are being affected by the rise of smartphones. Yes, it’s a little bit embellished for “shock” value, but there’s definitely some truth to it. I meant to share it last week when I first found it via Twitter, but this article on the New York Times reminded me about it, and I thought I’d share a personal anecdote along with the video:

Being “that” guy who pulls out his phone in the middle of dinner/a date/conversation is something I’ve been wary of for a a year or two now. Even though, I’m sure I’ve still been him more than once. Possibly the majority of us (certainly those of us with smartphones) have been at some point. We pull out and check our phones constantly, often ignoring the people around us in the process – sometimes for an imagined notification. And then we wonder why our batteries never last a full day…

The last 6 weeks I’ve been forcefully trained out of the habit, and I’m kind of glad. The office I’ve worked in since the end of July is a bit of a black spot for data connections. I can get a weak GPRS (2G) connection if I’m lucky – there’s also no WiFi in the office (shocking, I know!) to use as a back-up. Most apps time out on me with anything less than HSDPA it seems, so I can no longer use my phone as a distraction while I’m in the office. Slowly but surely I’ve found this lack of checking my phone has even crept into the days I’m working at home – on these days it’s not unusual for me to finish the day on 80% battery or more!

My current disconnect from Facebook has been both strengthened by, and in turn reinforced this new habit and the idea I don’t need to be checking my notifications all the time. I’m finding that even if I do hear the tell-tale “ding” of a notification I’m less likely to rush and check it immediately. I may be imagining it, but I’m feeling a little less anxious these last few days, perhaps because I’m finally at a point I’m not anticipating when my phone is going to go off next.

If you wanted to try something similar for yourself, you can fake it by going into your phone settings and turning off 3G and/or 4G connections. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth trying for at least a few days, right?

Another thing you can try with friends as a means to reclaim your time together is any time you are together is play a variation of the “Phone Stacking Game”. See the image at the bottom of this post for the basic rules.

These days I’m checking/using my phone during the times I’m commuting, while heading to the shop on my lunch break, or otherwise as and when I feel like it while I’m on my own. It’s quite nice to own my smartphone again, rather than it owning me.

smartphone stack

I’ve spent some time this weekend making doing some much-needed housekeeping here, in order to keep it tidy and in a healthy state.

I’ve always found good blogging is more than just adding post after post. It takes a bit of effort behind the scenes; tending to the older content, keeping the “static” pages fresh, and removing any crud that’s accumulated in the sidebars. Keep these things in order, while feeding in good content, and your blog will grow. At least, that’s my theory. Things are slightly different on this particular blog, because it’s a personal blog, not a topic blog – so growth isn’t a primary concern. Hence the title: it can grow and be healthy, but I don’t expect it to be big.

With all that said, what have I been up to?

Site Theme

I decided the new(ish) Twenty Thirteen WordPress theme just didn’t work for me or how I see this site. It was nice and colourful, and good to have as a change, but it wasn’t really “me.” Instead, I’ve switched back to the “Standard” theme (which has been “retired” it seems), with a few tweaks. It’s more structured, and described as a “meticulously designed, hand-crafted theme.” I like things to have a bit of craftsmanship to them, and within that show an element of “control”; Twenty Thirteen felt just a little too chaotic for my tastes. I may still adjust some small parts, but mostly I’m happy with things now.

“Elsewhere” Links

For a while now I’ve maintained a sidebar list of other places you can find me: social media, profiles on various sites, etc. I’ve tidied this up to remove services I no longer use, or don’t use frequently enough for you to bother with. The  four sites in the sidebar now represent the other places you can find me, that I care about. Apart from Google+… not many people really care about that one, and I’m no different (maybe one day). Google+ is there to maintain my authorship information in Google.

Pruning Dead Content

Last year I would cross-post a lot of my Instagram shots over here. Then I deleted my Instagram account, and all those photo posts started showing as broken images. I’ve finally got round to clearing them out. I may have missed one or two, so if you spot one, please let me know!

Consolidation

Over the last couple of years I got it into my head that my blog had to present a “professional” image. An employer (or potential employer) might read it and decide not to hire me based on something I posted. As a result I fragmented my personality across the web, using a different site or service to post content in tailor-made silos. This site was just for technical posts which would show my expertise and how “professional” I am.

It was a stupid idea. It was stressful to maintain, and not as enjoyable. As a result, each site would languish for months without any update, and anything I did post was as much out of guilt as anything. I’ve given up trying to manage these sites, or “reboot” them. From now, this site represents the one “true” me. If an employer isn’t going to hire me over, say, one of the hobbies I’ve written about on my blog, then chances are they’re not somewhere I’d be happy to work at.

I will still use some services for specific needs: Twitter for things too short to fit here, and quick conversations; Facebook or Flickr for sharing photos of the kids with family or close friends, etc. Anything else should end up here. I’ve already imported the content of some other blogs into the archives, and I’m picking through an export of my old Tumblr, to see if there’s anything there worth adding (not likely!).

Re-Injecting the Personal and the Personality

Directly related to what I’ve written above, it struck me when I was reading through the old posts I recovered from previous incarnations of this blog, was how personal I used to get on here. That has been missing for a few years now, and as a result, a lot of the personality and “voice” has gone. Somewhere along the line I became overly private and cautious about what I was posting, and I honestly don’t know or understand why any more. It can’t just have been the employer reason mentioned above. Did I think I would be seen as some sort of narcissist? This is something I will try to address going forward. I’m also thinking about addressing it going back too. There are large gaps in this blogs chronology which could easily be filled with retrospective and back-dated entries about what was going on at the time. Some of it could even be quite useful for myself, as a way to reflect.

I’m not 100% certain though. While it could end up OK, I don’t want to post something inaccurate because my memories of the events have been tinged or faded by time. Especially where there’s other people involved. It’s OK to make a mistake about something just about me, but it’s not OK when it could impact or upset someone else.

I have made a baby-step of a start though. I have added some photo galleries to the site. Most were taken in the last year, but I’ll be going back and picking out other suitable subjects/events to post up. Galleries are backdated to the event/date they were taken, to distinguish “old” ones from any I post in the future. There will be a mix of subjects, from holidays, random photo-shoots, modelling projects… whatever really!

What Next?

Going through this exercise ties-in to some thoughts I’ve been having recently about my “digital identity,” who controls it, and what it means. These thoughts inn turn, have spun out of me stepping away from Facebook for a while. I’m trying to shape these thoughts into something fully-formed so I can share them on here.